8 Skin Scents for Spring 2022—What Are Skin Scents?

We all have a unique scent—that natural cocktail made up of our body chemistry mixed with the products we routinely use on our skin, hair, laundry, and more.

It’s the subtle but distinctively-you smell left behind on a T-shirt—or on your bed sheets. If you think of a traditional fragrance formula, worn overtly, then a personal scent is more like lingerie—detectable only during intimate contact. To catch a whiff, you must come close.

Recognizing the potential appeal of bottling a scent so inherently sensual, beauty brands have begun experimenting with fragrances that either attempt to mimic the natural smell of human skin, or use ingredients that take your individual elixir and amplify it. The result: a burgeoning category of eau de parfums and toilettes referred to as skin scents. Not unlike a tinted moisturizer or lip balm—or a styling product that plays up your hair’s natural texture—these understated fragrances aim to make the most of what you have (and emit), naturally.

“”People are emerging from deep social isolation and want to connect emotionally, socially, and intimately. Skin scents can help give us all those things.”

Most skin scents are soft, lightweight formulas that cling close to the body—similar to how our own natural aromas behave. Tania Sanchez, coauthor of Perfumes: The Guide, describes skin scents as something “light enough for people to think of not as perfumes, separate entities traveling along with you, but as somehow part of you, emanating from you…I suspect most rely heavily on slow, dry-down materials like musks, woods, and ambers and less on very forward, identifiable materials like berry notes, heavy florals, or grapefruit.”

Skin scents are also typically gender-neutral, and most could be described as warm, inviting, sexy (but not heavy), and clean (but not sterile). Some fragrance experts suggest one reason skin scents are so appealing is because they pay homage to intimacy, something many of us lacked during months of social distancing.

“[The pandemic] put restrictions on being with other people and limited our ability to get very close to someone,” says Rachel Herz, PhD, a neuroscientist at Brown University and an expert in the psychological science of smell. “So getting this secret hint of somebody’s presence provides an added layer of intimacy that has a psychologically meaningful dimension at this particular time. People are emerging from deep social isolation and want to connect emotionally, socially, and intimately. Skin scents can help give us all those things.”

How can a perfumer conjure something so personal? Some blends, such as Glossier You Eau de Parfum or The Maker Naked Eau de Parfum, include notes like pink pepper, which infuses the scent with a subtle spiciness that is surprisingly similar to the smell of human skin.

Other skin scents utilize very soft florals to evoke human skin—but they do it in a subtler way than you’d find in traditional florals. The scent By Rosie Jane Rosie Eau de Parfum, for instance, uses just a whispery hint of rose to give the fragrance a velvety plushness suggestive of warm, damp skin. Glossier You complements its piquant pink pepper note with just a touch of iris to make the blend’s spiciness a bit cozier.

The secret weapon in a skin scent like Molecule 01 by Escentric Molecules is an ingredient called Iso E Super, which magnifies other notes. Alone, Iso E Super smells slightly woody and is almost imperceptible. But spray it on bare skin, and suddenly it can intensify your own natural skin scent.

“We discovered that Iso E Super, the only [active] ingredient in Molecule 01, creates an individual aura for each person who wears it,” says Geza Schoen, master perfumer and founder of Escentric Molecules. Schoen suggests it was this unique characteristic that helped Molecule 01 become one of the brand’s best-selling blends, as many people have been craving an opportunity to express their individuality, as well as find a fragrance that’s an alternative to mass-market, generic scents.

Skin scents can also be deeply sexy. Secretions Magnifiques by Etat Libre d’Orange utilizes aldehydic notes (key components of Chanel N°5, where they create that classic scent’s soapy, clean characteristic), mixed with musk, sandalwood, and marine ingredients, such as salty seaweed. The effect is erotic, yet still surprisingly subtle. Like most skin scents, Secretions Magnifiques is best smelled up close.

Get Personal

Play up your body’s natural eau by spritzing on any of these skin scents.

This article appears in the February 2022 issue of ELLE.

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